This study aimed to investigate the differential expression of plasma proteins in patients suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) at different phases. A complete proteomic analysis was performed using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis followed by mass spectrometry in three patients with HAPE at the acute stage and recovery phase. Comparisons between the expression patterns of the patients with HAPE at the two different phases led to the identification of eight protein spots with a >1.5-fold difference in expression between the acute and recovery phases. These differentially expressed proteins were apolipoproteins, serum amyloid P component, complement components and others. Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo A-I), serum amyloid P component and fibrinogen were overexpressed in the patients with HAPE in the acute stage compared with their expression levels in the recovery phase. However, Apo A-IV and antithrombin-III were overexpressed in the patients with HAPE in the recovery phase compared with their expression levels in the acute stage. The results indicate that the differential plasma proteome in patients with HAPE may be associated with the occurrence of HAPE, and the expression changes of Apo A-I and A-IV may offer further understanding of HAPE to aid its prognosis, diagnosis and treatment.